I heard the Vox Humana concert of SOLI Chamber Ensemble Tuesday night in San Antonio at Trinity University's Ruth Taylor Recital Hall.
1. The ensemble and guest performer Allison Garza gave a pre-concert talk with lots of depth, humor and musical examples. Carolyn True led the discussion with grace and blue collar charm never talking over anyone's head but made brilliant points.
2. Augusta Read Thomas' Toft Serenade was the newest work on the program (2006) and started the concert, featuring Ertan Torgul and True. Its in two sections, and is a good opener. Playful and thorny at times, it allows both parts to take on lines and shine.
3. Next, SOLI continued their Elliott Carter 100th Birthday tribute with Esprit Rude/Espirt Doux for flute and clarinet. Garza was joined by Stephanie Key in a very charming and well crafted duo written for Boulez' 75th birthday. Again, equal parts in both lyric and melodic lines were performed extremely well.
4. Michael Torke's Telephone Book was the fluff for the evening - the three movements (yellow, blue and white pages) allowed all the performers (SOLI + Garza) to collaborate. It is toe tapping and easy on the ears (except a slight ensemble flub in the finale which noone really noticed) - a perfect light work to end the first half. During intermission, whale songs on a video played while they set up for the 2nd half - I hope they can do that again Thursday - and look into more multimedia addons to both performances and their website!
5. The entire second half was George Crumb's 1971 masterpiece Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale), the oldest piece on the program, yet still spoke as if it were brand new! It's the third time I've had the chance to hear it live, although I love recordings, it is an ideal piece to experience live. And believe me, the third time is a charm with Garza, True and David Mollenauer. Blue lighting adorned the dark stage, they were all in black with black masks, and the players embraced the score and all the extended techniques that Crumb requires. They did it with panache, no fear and completely held the audience in their hands. I go to too many concerts where there are standing ovations, but I didn't hesitate on bit to be on my feet for this landmark concert. If you go to one concert this season, go hear SOLI's Vox Humana!
The program is presented again at Blue Star Thursday night 7:30pm with another pre-talk with the ensemble at 7pm. Hear an interview with members of the group AND also George Crumb at the TPR website here and another interview with Allison Garza Thursday afternoon at 2pm on Classical Spotlight.